Special training will help rescue horses involved in road accidents on Whidbey

Jerry Lloyd of Greenbank and Kola, his 17-year-old paint, in front of a trailer used to transport horses. “When an accident takes place, a horse’s instinct is to run.” - Roy Jacobson / The Record
Jerry Lloyd of Greenbank and Kola, his 17-year-old paint, in front of a trailer used to transport horses. “When an accident takes place, a horse’s instinct is to run.”
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Record

A horse trailer overturns on Highway 525, blocking traffic for miles.

The animal inside appears unhurt, but is extremely agitated — more than a half-ton of agitation.

“How do you manage the panic?” said Jerry Lloyd, of Greenbank, a member of the Island County Back Country Horsemen Club. “The key is to read the situation and try to extract the horse without hurting it.

“It’s not like pulling a person out of a car,” he added. “If you cut the roof off a horse trailer, the horse inside will go nuts.”

Lloyd is on a mission to protect horses and other large animals involved in trailer accidents and other hazardous incidents on the island.

He and other members of the equestrian club have formed an Equine Emergency Rescue Team to bring emergency training to Whidbey. The group has conducted training sessions designed for first responders such as firefighters, and for others wanting to help.

“A horse is a 1,000-pound chicken,” Lloyd said. “It’s bred to flee.”

“When an accident takes place, its instinct is to run,” he continued. “That horse wants out of there, and will go through anything or anybody in its way. The horse may be fine after a wreck, but then it panics.”

Lloyd said a spooked animal may cut itself badly on jagged metal from a damaged trailer, or trample those outside trying to help.

He said the best approach in such situations may be to right the trailer with the horse still in it, and get it off the road as quickly as possible to minimize traffic backups.

Previous demonstrations of rescue techniques drew large crowds of horse enthusiasts and firefighters in Oak Harbor and Coupeville.

Now the focus is on the South End.

A free demonstration and equipment fundraiser will be next week in Freeland. It will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 31, at the Freeland Fire Station, 5535 Cameron Road.

Featured speakers will be Mount Vernon veterinarian Ken Leisher and Island County Fire District 3 officials.

Fire district Assistant Chief Paul Busch said that as many as a dozen members of his volunteer organization will attend the demonstration.

“In the 30 years I’ve been with the department, we haven’t had an overturned trailer with a horse in it, knock on wood,” Busch said. “We’ve had some horses loose on the highway, but no overturned trailers.

“At some point in time, it’s going to happen,” Busch added. “It’ll be important for us to know what to look for, what to do and who to contact.”

Lloyd said the demonstration is focused on fire-district volunteers, but all horse enthusiasts are invited. Refreshments will be provided by the South Whidbey Centaurs 4-H Horse Club.

Lloyd said the ultimate goal is to establish a team of a dozen trained and equipped volunteers in North Whidbey and a dozen on the South End to respond to mishaps involving large animals.

Besides dealing with the immediate situation, the effort would include volunteers who can bring empty trailers to carry animals from an accident scene.

Lloyd said the Freeland demonstration will cover techniques developed by the Large Animal Rescue Company of Monterey, Calif. The emphasis will be on how to handle an overturned trailer, but dealing with other incidents, such as a large animal that has gone over a cliff or is stuck in a hole, also will be discussed.

The demonstration also will cover the preparation of medical kits for barn, trailer and trail.

The need for such training is growing rapidly in Island County, Lloyd said.

There are more than nine million horses in the United States, and the numbers on the island are rapidly increasing.

Lloyd said that while not many of the super-large animal trailers travel the island highways, the number of smaller rigs on the road continues to grow.

Big events in Coupeville have drawn as many as 200 horse trailers, he said, and more than 80 have converged at times at the Island County Fairgrounds in Langley.

As part of the upcoming demonstration, the horse club also hopes to raise money to buy equipment for the two rescue units being formed. Lloyd said the goal is $3,500, and so far it’s about $2,000 short.

“We need people to write checks large and small,” he said.

Also during the event, there will be a booth to collect donations for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust’s effort to buy 664 acres of the former Trillium Woods property north of Freeland.

The nonprofit hopes to raise $4.2 million by the June 10 deadline to secure a conservation easement on the property, the largest remaining single-owner parcel on Whidbey Island.

For more information about the training program or the demonstration, call Lloyd at 222-3445, or e-mail

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